Smith Street Action Group's take on development

Image © Neometro
Image © Neometro

Last Thursday Urban.com.au glossed over 16 separate residential projects within close proximity to, or located on Smith Street which bisects Collingwood and Fitzroy. Later that day we received a press release from the Smith Street Action Group entitled "Rear Window becomes Next Window as Inappropriate Density Invades."

A full copy of the media release is available for reading.

SSAG's release is worth reading and carries some valid points. "Appropriate gentrification is good, considering that living spaces do allow people to live well" is their overall stance, however the approved 237 Smith Street development has raised the group's level of discontent.

I'll play the devil's advocate today in order to further explore the issues at hand by posing a series of questions.

Smith Street Action Group's take on development

Free market

A 6 level building, proposed to sit atop the hugely popular Messina Gelato, 237 Smith Street is an example of the new micro and highly dense apartment building that will soon populate Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

Are apartment buyers/investors required to purchase micro and highly dense apartments? Last I checked, no. 33 square metre apartments are insanely small, yet if the developer sees fit to cater for (perceived) demand by adding micro apartments to their development profile, good luck to them. The market will dictate whether this is an act of frivolity or otherwise.

Lines of sight and sighting the sun

“The building has sight lines directly into my apartment, not only does it completely cancel my northside view, but what I will be serving for dinner will be clearly visible to my neighbours, they will be able to count the peas on my plate.” Owen Harris

What can I say? To lessen confusion, 231 Moor Street and 231 Smith Street occupy the same buildings - Panama House on the intersection of Smith & Moor. Directly north of the recently completed Panama House apartment conversion at 231 Smith Street will sit 237 Smith Street.

One obscured light well (material 9 in image below) and one 700mm high glazed southeast corner window are the only non precast/metal areas to the southern boundary. Unless Inspector Gadget is counting your peas, overlooking is a moot point. Having said that the prospect of being greeted by a blank wall every day is somewhat depressing.

Smith Street Action Group's take on development

Developer on the cross

231 Moor Street developers Neometro were given written notice for 237 Smith Street proposal as early as September 2012 and the 229 Smith Street development as early as March 2013 and did not inform their purchasers.

What place for Caveat emptor? I was always under the impression that developers had no requirement to inform buyers of proposed neighbouring developments, rather the onus was on the individual - after all the burden rests with the individual buying the property to consider and essentially accept that at some point in the future, a development may encroach upon their amenity and views. "Views are a privilege, not a right."

Why attempt to hold Neometro to account when the rest of the industry does not operate to that standard.

Paterson's conversion

Smith Street Action Group's take on development

Is this an acceptable development? One that escaped attention in last week's article is the conversion of the most magnificent Patersons Building from a general arts/office space into private apartments. The redeveloped apartments will be positively spacious compared to what is proposed for 237 Smith Street yet will prospective buyers for The Patersons consider that airspace surrounding their complex may be lost in years to come...unlikely.

Ultimately as much as action groups serve their purpose and highlight poor outcomes in both planning and development, from a buyer's perspective future disputes and disappointments can be for the most avoided by genuinely considering the dynamics of the location of your intended purchase both now and into the future. Sometimes that's easier said than done.

Feel the need to disagree, correct or corroborate any of the above content by posting a comment below.

Mark Baljak

Mark Baljak

Tags: 
Amenity Gentrification Smith Street

Comments (24)

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johnproctor
Bilby. I think we are agreed - it would be ideal if new developments treated existing heritage with respect including maintaining as much of the internal fabric as possible. I also agree that urban infill sites (like Victoria Gardens precinct) can carry a lot of the load for inner city redevelopment. We are also agreed that developers are all about making money. You may have noted that I did say some buildings will get fancy new shop fitouts without the uplift in floor area or floors above. Its happened to most of the new cafe's etc along Smith Street recently. This redevelopment still largely relies on an increase in development 'somewhere' in the Smith Street precinct. Where we disagree is the level at which we can, should and the broader community wants to retain 'heritage' features. The broader community probably thinks facadism is fine as its the shopfront they find pretty. I think we should keep the four walls (and probably some internal ones too) to keep the fabric of the existing building and in particular the natural materials (brick, wood, stone) used in heritage buildings (compared to pre-fab concrete walls in new buildings). Maybe its 'the first 10 metres' for osme of hte other internal elements as well - eg. pressed metal ceilings in many shops on Smith. But whether that can be achieved I doubt it. Bilby and Owen Re: 229 Smith. For me it doesn't look like a particularly nice design. But the planning scheme doesn't say anything about it being 'nice', ultimately design is subjective and even when using a DDO to guide design outcomes often Council's can only guide setbacks, heights, materials and other 'factual' elements. In terms of the footprint (height, setbacks, window orientation etc) of the development I don't particularly have a problem wiht it especially given the footprint of the adjoining development of the panama building which seems to be very similar. Owen - just because your building got in first doesn't really affect my view of whose responsibility it is to protect against overlooking - as others said above - didn't you think to yourself "if I can have a window here, someone could have a window there"? And finally regarding the 'poorly planned micro apartments' as Nicholas Harrison said - just because you wouldn't want to live in that small an apartment doesn't mean someone else wouldn't want to. Maybe they are 'undesirable' though? Given many people poitn to the gentrification of these areas as meaning the loss of the social mix and boheiams and forcing out the poor that made the area so interesting and popular in the first place - I personally would have thought that a mix of dwelling sizes across the precinct (not in individual developments) including presumably relatively affordable micro-apartments would be a good thing to keep some of that diversity alive.
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nwharr
Owen your hypocrisy is breathtaking. You move into a brand new six storey development and then state that any further new development should be restricted because Fitzroy/Collingwood cannot sustain such increases in population. I am not sure why you didn't think that the lot next door to yours, with exactly the same planning controls as your property, would not be developed in almost exactly the same manner at some time in the future? You also seem to be saying that you only want large, expensive apartments built in Fitzroy/Collingwood? How well does that fit in with the cultural heritage of the area? Generally residents who complain about small apartments being built in an area are more concerned about the 'type' of people they think live in small apartments rather than any altruistic concern for their amenity.
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OwenHarris
Nicholas you have also misunderstood me. I am all for high density, where appropriate. But of course there should be restrictions. That's the essential point of planning and the very idea of the planning system. What I object to is a poorly planned development where planning documents contain gross errors, affected parties are not notified and the end result is micro-apartments with no amenity which then set a precedent for the neighborhood and the city that is unsustainable.
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tayser
What about the - to use your words - "cheap and nasty" houses built on the edge of the sprawl-belt? Why do people keep buying and living in them? I think the answer somewhat relies on that we're all different and don't all buy or want to live in a property for the same reason.
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OwenHarris
Clearly state and local councils must get off their arses and start investing in infrastructure. However, if you fill the city with cheap and nasty developments like 229 and 237 Smith then there wont be any problem of "the masses". People wont want to live in Melbourne. And that includes me.
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